Gogodala - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Apart from sago extraction from trees in some of the swampy areas, gardens provide staple foods such as yams, taro, cassava, breadfruit, bananas, coconuts, and sugarcane. Recently introduced sweet potatoes, pumpkins, corn, and cucumbers are also planted. Piper methysticum, for the manufacture of kava, was traditionally cultivated in special manured garden beds, and it continues to be grown and used despite opposition from the missionaries. Fishing, with nets, traps, and poison, is an important subsistence activity, as is hunting, which yields game required for a variety of social exchanges. Carvings have recently become a major source of cash income.

Industrial Arts. Everyday implements such as bows and arrows, digging sticks, canoe paddles, fishing nets, and wicker fish traps were made from locally available materials, as were the wispy grass aprons traditionally worn by women and coarse fiber nets and bags. Despite abundant suitable clay in the area, no pottery was manufactured or used. In a region devoid of natural stone, the Gogodala were, and remain, remarkably skilled wood-carvers, intricately ornamenting house posts and dugout canoes, some of the latter being up to 12 meters long.

Trade. Prior to government control of the region, trading opportunities were restricted, as cannibal enemy groups resided to both the north and south of the Gogodala; with pacification, however, the Gododala traded European goods with the Kiwai of the Fly River for stone adz blades originating in the Torres Strait. Between Gogodala villages, there was frequent trade of tobacco, bird of paradise plumes, ornaments, and daggers, with the villages nearest the sea providing shell of various kinds.

Division of Labor. Traditionally, all men made their own implements for everyday use and were also responsible for construction, felling sago palms, gardening, and hunting. Women's tasks included making sago, fishing, cooking, weaving, and making twine; also, wild piglets captured by men on hunting trips were tended by women. While all men learned to shape wood at an early age, some boys were recognized as having special talents and were apprenticed to master craftsmen and artists who, although their everyday lives were the same as those of others, occupied a distinctive place in society.

Land Tenure. All lagoons, patches of forest, and sago swamps are owned by clans and subdivided according to subclan. A man may make gardens and hunt on the land associated with his own clan, and a woman fishes in the area belonging to her husband's clan, although she may be permitted also to use her father's clan's portion of lagoons and waterways.

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